Jordan seeks more coordination with Russia to bring stability to southern Syria

Jordan and Russia have agreed to step up coordination in tackling instability in southern Syria.

 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in Amman, Jordan November 3, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/ALAA AL SUKHNI)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in Amman, Jordan November 3, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALAA AL SUKHNI)

Jordan and Russia have agreed to step up coordination in tackling instability in southern Syria, which Amman blames on Iran-linked militias and multi-billion dollar drug smuggling across its border, Jordan's foreign minister said on Thursday.

Ayman al Safadi was speaking after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that centered on south Syria to "neutralize the potential dangers of instability" in the area.

"There is a need for coordination and this is the focus of expansive discussions. The danger of drug smuggling to Jordan and across its territory by hostile militias," Safadi told a news conference.

"There is a need for coordination and this is the focus of expansive discussions. The danger of drug smuggling to Jordan and across its territory by hostile militias."

Ayman al Safadi

Russia whose military intervention helped Syrian President Bashar al Assad regain most of the country from insurgents during an over decade-long civil war backed a political solution to end the conflict, Lavrov said.

The growing influence of Iranian-backed militias including Lebanon's Hezbollah group in southern Syria in recent years has already alarmed both Jordan and Israel.

 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman, Jordan November 3, 2022. (credit: Jordanian Royal Palace/Handout via REUTERS) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman, Jordan November 3, 2022. (credit: Jordanian Royal Palace/Handout via REUTERS)

What are Jordan's concerns? 

King Abdullah has expressed fears that the Russian war with Ukraine could eventually help Iran fill in the void left by a weaker Russian military presence in Syria, and Amman looks to Moscow to reaffirm its commitment to the region.

Regional intelligence sources say Moscow has in recent months stepped up military police patrols along the Syrian side of the border in a move to assure Jordan it will not allow Teheran-backed militias to hold sway along the border area.

The sharp rise in smuggling attempts had forced Jordan earlier this year to change army rules of engagement along the border, giving its military the authority to use overwhelming force.

"With the continued situation in the south (Syria), the kingdom will do what is needed to preserve its national security," Safadi said.

War-torn Syria has become the region's main production site for a multi-billion-dollar drug trade, with Jordan a main transit route to the oil-rich Gulf states for Syrian-made amphetamine, Western anti-narcotics officials and Washington say.

Jordanian officials say they have raised their concerns with Syrian authorities but have not seen any real attempt to clamp down on the illicit trade.

Damascus says it is doing its best to curb smuggling and

continues to bust major smuggler rings in the south and denies complicity by militias tied to its security forces.